The father of Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost, Frost spent much of his post-War career in the theater, teaching for many years at the University of Minnesota. Although he’d occasionally work in Hollywood—showing up in the film version of Slaughterhouse Five, or the occasional small part on something like Quantum Leap—Frost didn’t achieve mainstream attention until he was cast as the kindly town doctor in David Lynch and his son’s zeitgeist-defining cult mystery. The father of Lara Flynn Boyle’s Donna, Frost’s Doc Hayward lent a folksy charm to the world of Twin Peaks, even as he presented a clearly befuddled face to the evil lurking under the town’s placid exterior.
Frost tapped into his own darker side for the role of Seinfeld’s Mr. Ross, a part that laid the template for any number of angry future father-in-laws to come. Seething with rage—and, possibly, his lost love for author John Cheever—Frost’s performance walks a delicate balancing act between Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and a sincere desire to keep his little girl out of George Costanza’s idiotic hands. Frost showed up for five episodes of bitter Seinfeld acrimony, but the character’s hilarious slow-burn rage and surprising vulnerability are best captured in this one-two punch from his first appearance in “The Cheever Letters”:
And, just for fun, here he is bouncing off of Jerry Stiller’s triumphantly irritating Frank Costanza in “The Rye”:
Frost—whose other credits include a long-time stint on Matlock, and the short-lived Timothy Busfield series Byrds Of Paradise—retired from screen acting in 2000, returning to his home in Vermont with Virginia Calhoun, his wife of 68 years. He continued to act on the stage and perform in one-man shows, and reportedly filmed some scenes for the upcoming revival of Twin Peaks. He died yesterday.